Tiger Woods made short work of the easier North course at Torrey Pines, leaving everyone else long odds of catching him at the Buick Invitational.

Woods chipped in for par, escaped from a couple of trees and wound up with a 7-under-par 65 yesterday to match his best start ever at Torrey Pines in San Diego, building a four-shot lead over alternate Kevin Streelman as he tries to win this event for the fourth straight year.

Woods, making his first start of the season, had a 12-under 132 total.

"If they handed out the trophy today, then it would be over and no big deal," Woods said. "But since we have so many more holes to play . . . as you've seen on tour, anything can happen."

Streelman, a 29-year-old rookie who made it through all three stages of Q-school, was third alternate Thursday and was not expecting to play until someone tapped him on the shoulder to say he had 4 minutes to get to the tee when Matthew Goggin withdrew. Streelman followed his opening 67 with a 69 on the tougher South Course and will be in the final group with Woods.

"Obviously, it's going to be a huge ordeal out there, but it's going to be great," Streelman said.

Joining them will be Stewart Cink, who was at 7-under 137.

Phil Mickelson, also making his first start of the year, was 1-under after a 73 on the South Course.

In another tournament:

* Gil Morgan had two eagles in a four-hole stretch on his way to a 7-under 65 and the early first-round lead in the Champions Tour's Turtle Bay Championship in Kahuku, Hawaii. *